Eden Hazard dazzles, N'Golo Kante tireless in Chelsea's FA Cup triumph
Chelsea won the FA Cup for the eighth time beating Manchester United 1-0 in an edgy final at sun-soaked Wembley. Eden Hazard, brought down by Phil Jones in the United box, got up and converted the resulting penalty midway through the first half for what proved to be the only goal of the game and the Belgium international posed a constant threat to United throughout the contest.
The Red Devils had plenty of chances to level particularly after the break but found Blues keeper Thibaut Courtois in inspired form and the defence in front of him equally resolute. Courtois' goal was breached on one occasion but VAR technology proved Alexis Sanchez was offside when he played the ball.
Tactically, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte got the better of his frequent adversary Jose Mourinho and if this turns out to be the Italian's last game in charge of the London club he will leave with his head held high feted a hero once more after what has been a difficult season.
Winning the FA Cup will go a long way to restoring the morale of all associated with Chelsea after a trying campaign that has brought with it many disappointments. Courtois, N'Golo Kante and Hazard were all superb and every player effective or not put in a committed shift, something which cannot be said of the team in general this season.
It's difficult to be negative about a victory in a cup final. Critics might argue that Conte parked the bus, but maybe he just simply outdid Mourinho at his own game.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Conte made some big calls in terms of team selection and tactics but in the final analysis the result proved he got everything spot on from deploying Courtois and Tiemoue Bakayoko to benching Willian and making very late changes with his substitutions.
Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 9 -- Preferred to Willy Caballero who had started all of Chelsea's previous FA Cup ties this season, Courtois showed why he is the Blues first-choice keeper with a string of important saves that kept Man United at bay.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 8 -- Conte's three-man backline was excellent and Azpilicueta with his outstanding positional sense was the pick of the trio. Of the many tackles and blocks "Dave" committed himself to, taking the sting out of an Anthony Martial shot which looked goal-bound was the best. He got a standing ovation from supporters who love the bones of the man.
DF Gary Cahill, 8 -- Cahill certainly picked the right game to put in arguably his best performance of what has been a season dogged by patchy form. Helped neutralise the threat of Alexis Sanchez and was also a vocal captain keeping his teammates buoyed as energy levels were sapped late on.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 8 -- "Rudi" is rapidly becoming a cult hero with Chelsea supporters who love his no-nonsense, tough-tackling approach to the game which was exemplified here against United. Mobility and physicality were to the fore once again at Wembley and an FA Cup winners' medal is a just reward for an excellent debut season.
MF Victor Moses, 6 -- Defensively had his work cut out for him and he conceded dangerous free kicks when fouling Paul Pogba in the first half and Ashley Young after break. Fortunately both came to nothing and Moses also escaped without being booked which allowed him to continue to tackle assertively.
MF Marcos Alonso, 6 -- Chelsea's weakest link. Struggled to contain Marcus Rashford and the pressing of Antonio Valencia. Going forward too, Alonso might have done better when he had a clear chance to double the Blues lead on 70 minutes.
MF N'Golo Kante, 9 -- Once again, in testing conditions, Kante's ability to keep running when others around him succumb to fatigue proved to be one of the telling differences that edged the result Chelsea's way. Controlled midfield from a defensive perspective and was also a threat going forward as a blistering run out of midfield to set up Alonso deserved a better finish.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 8 -- The fulcrum of Chelsea's creative play in the first half when he had the measure of Pogba's early attempts to man-mark him. Floated a superb ball to Hazard that led to the penalty decision and the Blues goal. More subdued in the second period as United pressed for an equaliser and arguably should have been subbed off as his legs appeared to go late on.
MF Tiemoue Bakayoko, 8 -- Seeing Bakayoko's name on the team sheet was a source of ire/concern for the many Chelsea fans who have criticised him over the course of a hit and mainly miss debut season. The 23-year old soon allayed their concerns and put in a robust display which illustrated how well he is suited to playing in a five-man midfield.
FW Eden Hazard, 9 -- Regularly the outstanding talent on the pitch when he puts his mind to it, Hazard was in the mood against Man United. Although predictably man-marked by Ander Herrera, it was Jones who failed to cope inside the rules of the game with the Belgium international's artistry forcing him to dive in clumsily and concede the penalty that was converted with consummate ease.
FW Olivier Giroud, 7 -- Linked up well with Fabregas and Hazard and worked tirelessly to hold the ball up. However, the pattern of the game meant opportunities to pose a genuine threat were few and very far between.
FW Alvaro Morata, NR -- Replaced Giroud for the closing moments of the game but was not involved in play.
FW Willian, NR -- Replaced Hazard in stoppage time at the end of the match and had time to make a couple of threatening runs at United's defence to help run the clock down.
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco